FKAA eyes $38 million plant project on Stock Island

The FKAA has had this reverse osmosis plant on Stock Island since 1967.
The FKAA has had this reverse osmosis plant on Stock Island since 1967.

The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority’s board today will consider $50 million worth of projects, including a $38 million plant renovation and upgrade of its reverse osmosis plant on Stock Island.

If the board approves all the proposed projects, the Keys’ water utility predicts a 5 percent rate increase for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Built in 1967, the Stock Island plant, which costs the FKAA about $1 million a year in repairs, originally was built to produce 3 million gallons of water a day in case of an emergency. But when part of it was shifted to Marathon, its production fell to 2 million gallons a day. The Lower Keys uses about 8 million gallons of water each day.

“It was put there to cover the Lower Keys,” said Kirk Zuelch, executive director of the FKAA . “It’s like an old car. We’re spending a lot of money on it and it’s not as reliable.”

If the board wants a capacity of 4 million gallons a day, it will cost some $38 million, FKAA staff says, and there are lesser options producing less water.

“It would be around $20 million to replace it with a 2 million [capacity], the same amount it can produce today,” Zuelch said.

The board meets today at the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District building, 503 107th St. in Marathon, starting at 10:30 a.m.

“The level of service is really what’s driving this,” Zuelch said of the Stock Island plant proposal. “What kind of levels of service can we provide to the public in case of an emergency down here, if we lost water from the Seven Mile Bridge south.”

In addition to the Stock Island plant project, the board will consider replacing areas of transmission pipeline that staff calls vulnerable. The Keys’ water plant is in Florida City.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen\